The cathedral is an example of Romanesque Revival architecture dating from 1903, which includes a vaulted interior that creates highly reverberant acoustics that had confounded all attempts at achieving musical clarity and speech intelligibility when using sound amplification. Determined to overcome the problems using the best available technologies, the responsible ecclesial and governmental authorities commissioned an audio system renovation that culminated with the Meyer Sound system install.
In addition to the regular schedule of Catholic masses, the cathedral hosts a varied schedule of musical events, including symphony orchestras and amplified contemporary ensembles in addition to the Monaco Boys’ Choir (Les Petits Chanteurs de Monaco).
Serving as principal acoustical consultant and sound designer on the project was Dominique Heymès. His brief was to find a superior replacement for an ageing, 100V distributed system with no provisions for separate management of different zones, resulting in extremely poor intelligibility.
“Several options were open to me,” explained Heymès, “but the CAL from Meyer Sound — revolutionary in my opinion — stood out as the ideal choice. This impression was reinforced with further studies and measurements. I’ve always appreciated Meyer Sound for sophisticated products offering technologies that are often irreplaceable. In this case, the ability to use the CAL directivity beams in a thorough and precise way proved to be a determining factor.”
José Chaves of Paris-based Best Audio plotted the specifics of the new system design. As installed, the system is anchored by two CAL 64 column array loudspeakers placed in front of the altar. To cover acoustically isolated areas or seating shadowed by columns, delay systems were added comprising a total of 25 Meyer Sound IntelligentDC series loudspeakers, including UPM-1XP, UPM-2XP, UP-4XP and MM-4XP models. In addition, dual 750-LFC low-frequency control elements assure full bandwidth bass extension for contemporary music, while two Galileo GALAXY processors supply system drive and optimisation. All loudspeakers are factory colour-matched to the surrounding stonework.
The system was installed by Monaco-based Accord Son Lumière under the direction of Jean Michel Mounier and Thierry Chambet. Marco de Fouquières of Dushow in Paris came to Monaco for final tuning of the system.
“We listened to classical music recordings first, and everybody was enthusiastic about the fidelity and precision of the sound," added Heymès. "I heard comments like, ‘We have never heard anything like that before! Dazzling!’ We followed with tests of live spoken word from different places, and I saw in all eyes the light of complete satisfaction. I heard comments such as ‘It’s superb, with everything perfectly intelligible everywhere in the cathedral.’ We ended with amplified music tests — guitar, vocals, bass and organ — and the musicians also were overwhelmed by the quality and precision of the sound.”
Though commonly referred to as Monaco Cathedral, the church’s formal name is Cathédrale Notre-Dame-Immaculée (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception). It is also known by many in the vicinity as Saint Nicholas Cathedral, taking on the name of the old church which was demolished in 1874. Construction of the current cathedral, designed by architect Charles Lenormand, commenced the following year.